With so many choices of tow behind ATV trailers on the market, making a decision on which one to buy can be a tough decision. This article will break down the different types of ATV trailers to help you decide the right one for your needs. Many people use the terms trailer, wagon and cart interchangeably, but these 3 terms describe 3 different units.
A trailer has a non-steerable front end and may describe a unit with one to several axles. These units are designed to trail behind of the tow vehicle. The advantage of the trailer is the tongue is fixed in position which makes backing much easier. The trailer depends on the tow vehicles brake system in most cases and the rigid front end keeps the unit straight during braking.
A cart has a single axle and is designed to be towed or pushed like a wheelbarrow when needed. The cart depends on the tow vehicles brake system in most cases and the rigid front end keeps the unit straight during braking.
A wagon has a steerable front end which makes allows the wagon to track directly behind of the tow vehicle. However, the steerable front end makes backing a wagon very difficult. Without a braking system of it's own, a wagon can veer to the side when going downhill on steep grades.
Many people believe ATV trailers are nothing more than a lawn trailer with larger tires on it. There are some trailers on the market this description does fit and those folks who have purchased these types of trailers recognize that mistake quickly. A quality ATV trailer or cart should have several items that make it much different than a lawn trailer.
Lawn trailers and wagons are designed for slow speeds and fairly level terrain. Designed for use behind of a lawn tractor, they are not built to take the punishment behind of an ATV. Most lawn trailers have sintered or sleeve bearing that allow a film of grease to contact the axle, minimizing wear. Sleeve bearing can only handle speeds up to 9-10 mph for short periods of use. One the grease is depleted, the axle begins to wear through the sleeve very quickly. Lawn trailers normally have a solid axle rigidly mounted to the cargo box or frame. This rigid mount does not flex with the load and can result in axle failure on rough terrain.
A quality ATV trailer should have roller bearing which will allow higher speed use for an extended period of use. The axle should be mounted so the frame can flex with the axle mount to prevent axle failure in rough terrain. On some trailers, this flex is designed within the larger ATV tires at low pressure to absorb the shock.
Common use materials in the cargo beds of ATV trailers are wood, steel, and poly. Wood has the advantage of being easily replaced if lost or damaged. Steel can be painted or powder-coated and the lower the gauge number, the thicker the steel. Example, a 14 gauge steel trailer is thicker and heavier than a 16 gauge steel trailer. The poly cargo beds have come along way in the past few years. They are not as prone to cracking and breaking in cold weather as they used to be. Poly has the advantage of never rusting like steel or rotting like wood. Aluminum is used by some manufacturers, however be aware of white-corrosion issues with bare aluminum exposed to the weather and the issue of dissimilar metal corrosion. This condition exists when steel bolts are in contact with aluminum.
ATV have quickly become the workhorse vehicle for many people and have replaced the utility tractor for some of the lighter chores around the farm or ranch. Matching the trailer, wagon or cart to the size of the ATV is very important. Examine the load capacity and tongue weight specifications of your ATV before purchasing a trailer. Pick a trailer, cart or wagon design around the tasks you have in mind. Can the trailer be converted to a flat bed easily? What is the hitch height needed so the trailer sets level? How long of a trailer tongue do I need to clear a cargo rack on the ATV when making tight turns? Will you be traveling in narrow trails or areas with a lot or stumps or debris? These are all considerations you should make before purchasing.
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